Written by Andy Dappen
If you wanted a one-quiver backcountry ski that could deftly handle the thinner snowpacks of Mission Ridge, Blewett Pass, and the Stuart Range in winter; the glop and ice crust of spring and early summer in the High Cascades; and that was light enough for long tours and traverses, many seasoned skiers would recommend a board with most of the following criteria: Their one-quiver sweetheart would be somewhere between 87 and 95 millimeters under foot, have tip measurements in the 120 to 125 mm range, possess some tip rocker for dealing with crud and glop, be tortionally stiff enough for good edge grip on icy mountain slopes, would weigh roughly 1300 to 1400 grams (per ski) and might cost a mere arm, as opposed to an arm and a leg.
I tested one such ski regionally for a few months in spring and summer conditions as varied as ice, deep sludge, tree-bombed cratered forest floors, and Styrofoam powder, and found love came easy for the Hagan Chimera 1.0 (124/87/109, $849). These skis came in a few ounces lighter per ski than my old love (K2 Shuksans), yet for a little less weight the platform throughout is about 10 millimeters wider, floats better in variable conditions, and has a slightly rockered tip to prevent floundering in funk and crusts.
While traversing the Chiwaukum Range and skiing the Rock-Howard-Mastiff Mountain traverse late this past spring, I had a companion along who was nearly my twin in ability who was skiing on his Shuksans. In good conditions it didn't really matter who was on what; we both skied easy snows with little effort. However, when breakable crusts, deep sludge, and snows of variable consistencies made the skiing tricky, I was noticeably better off and more stable on the Chimeras than my companion on his thinner one-quiver wonders. I was in better control, and could negotiate the funk easier and faster.
Even wider skis still might be better for descending these difficult conditions, but for an all-around backcountry touring ski there is a point of diminishing returns where the weight and width of the ski makes it less functional on the uphill -- it takes more effort to move the extra poundage and it's harder to hold the edge of that extra width while traversing up steep, firm snow. In defining the overall sweet spot between downhill and uphill performance, the Chimera seems to have landed on home base.
I was impressed enough that, if I had the wallet to afford the Chimeras, I'd get a pair. But I don't, so I haven't. This is a major drawback to testing new and/or different gear. Eventually your new love goes back to the manufacturer and you have to make amends with your old sweetheart who you're no longer quite so enamored with.
Photo: The Chimera's in use -- making easy work of the June snows (i.e., cements) in the Chiwaukum Range.
Numbers: 124/87/109; 1350 gm per ski in 176 cm length; 300mm of tip rocker, 120 mm tail rocker; $849 suggested retail.
Construction: paulownia wood core, high-molecular sintered bases, ABS sidewalls, multi-directional fiberglass laminates.
Info: See www.haganskiUSA.com or email info@HaganSkiUSA.com
Photo: The Chimeras also make good tent stakes (skis on left and right), as you'd expect of an all-mountain ski.